Con­trol your Au­toPlay set­tings

Ian Paul re­veals how Win­dows 10’s Au­toPlay re­sponds to var­i­ous re­mov­able me­dia

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS -

Few fea­tures in Win­dows have as coloured a his­tory as Au­toPlay. In its early days, the set­ting was in­fa­mous for pass­ing viruses from er­rant USB drives to PCs. In more re­cent ver­sions of Win­dows, Au­toPlay is off by de­fault to pre­vent ma­li­cious files from au­to­mat­i­cally ex­e­cut­ing on a PC.

It’s a handy fea­ture be­cause it tells Win­dows to au­to­mat­i­cally carry out a spe­cific ac­tion when you plug in some kind of re­mov­able me­dia such as an SD card, a USB drive or an ex­ter­nal CD player. Au­toPlay can be set to au­to­mat­i­cally im­port pho­tos or videos, play any me­dia, open File Ex­plorer, or do noth­ing at all.

Even in the age of Win­dows 10, the best prac­tice for Au­toPlay is to leave it off or to have it ask you what to do ev­ery time you in­sert a de­vice. If that doesn’t work for you, the next most be­nign step you can take is to set Au­toPlay to open File Ex­plorer. That way you can still see what’s on the USB stick, which is prob­a­bly an ac­tion you would’ve taken any­way.

Go to Start > Set­tings > De­vices > Au­toPlay. At the very top of the main screen there’s an On/Off slider that ac­ti­vates or de­ac­ti­vates Au­toPlay. Be­low this is the sub­head­ing Choose Au­toPlay de­faults. This sec­tion may change de­pend­ing on your ma­chine’s con­fig­u­ra­tion. On our lap­top there are op­tions to de­cide what to do with a USB re­mov­able drive (flash drive, ex­ter­nal hard drive, and so on) and a mem­ory card.

2 In our ex­am­ple, we’re set­ting each op­tion to open the files in File Ex­plorer for im­me­di­ate viewing. To do that, se­lect each drop-down menu and choose Open folder to view files (File Ex­plorer). If you’d rather open File Ex­plorer your­self, choose the Take no ac­tion op­tion.

If you need more gran­u­lar con­trol over what Au­toPlay does with each type of re­mov­able me­dia, you’ll find that in the Con­trol Panel. Open the util­ity by right-click­ing on Start and then se­lect­ing Con­trol Panel from the con­text menu.

3 Next, set the View by op­tion in the con­trol panel to Large icons. Then se­lect Au­toPlay at the top of the win­dow. From here you can tell Win­dows to do spe­cific things based on the type of me­dia and the files it has. For ex­am­ple, you can tell a re­mov­able drive to au­to­mat­i­cally im­port pho­tos but take no ac­tion for videos. There are nu­mer­ous op­tions you can set us­ing Con­trol Panel, but again it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that us­ing Au­toPlay at all can be an easy way to end up with an in­fected PC.

Of course, there’s more to USB se­cu­rity than sim­ply dis­abling Au­toPlay. The most im­por­tant thing to know is that you should never plug a USB de­vice into your PC if you don’t trust it or don’t know where it came from.

Even if you do trust a USB de­vice (such as one that you own), you still may not be able to treat it as safe, de­pend­ing on where it’s been. If you used a per­sonal USB drive at work and then brought it home to in­sert in your per­sonal ma­chine, watch out. You never know what kinds of hor­ri­ble things are lurk­ing in cor­po­rate net­works.

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